Most of us know that condoms are great at preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, so why aren’t more people using them? The most common reasons why people state they don’t use condoms are:
- It takes away from the moment
- It smells or tastes bad
- Some men lose their erection
- Reduces pleasure for both men and women
- They don’t have one when they decide to have sex
- Their partner will think they don’t trust them if they ask to use a condom
- Their partner will think they sleep around if they ask them to use a condom
- Fear of being identified as “high risk”
All of these are valid reasons, but there is more to it. Most people know at least a little bit about the risks of unprotected sex and the consequences, but someone’s “Perceived risk” is a bigger factor in whether they choose to protect themselves. Education by itself is not enough to change behavior. Our personal beliefs on how likely we are to become infected with STI’s or pregnant play a much bigger role in whether someone uses a condom use. The components of these beliefs are part of the Health Belief Model listed below which can help an individual or medical provider address sexual risk and behavior.
Perceived Susceptibility People will not change their health behaviors unless they believe that they are at risk. Ex: If someone doesn’t think they are risk for STI’s they won’t use a condom.
Perceived Severity The likelihood that someone will change their behavior depends on the severity of the potential consequences. Ex: I had a pregnancy scare and now I always use a condom.
Perceived Benefits People won’t change their behavior if there isn’t something in it for them. Ex: I really like the way it feels without a condom and partner doesn’t make me use one.
Perceived Barriers People won’t change their behavior if they think it will be hard. Ex: My partner and I have already had unprotected sex and I can’t start using condoms now.
Self-Efficacy The extent or strength of one’s belief in one’s own ability to complete tasks and/or reach goals. For many individuals something has to change or connect with them to make them step back and decide that their current choices are not working for them or place them in danger. Ex: If a person truly believes they can avoid chlamydia by negotiating condom use, they are apt to be more successful in reaching their goal.
Things to consider:
- Get tested if you don’t know your status or your partners status.
- Think about your risk factors and what safer sex strategies you could implement.
- Go to a reliable website to learn more about safer sex or make an appointment and learn how to protect yourself and make safer sex fun.